Isn’t it curious that there is a huge debate in the United States which has an abortion law while there is little debate on abortion in Canada which doesn’t have one.
Pierre Trudeau, a Roman Catholic, introduced a Canadian abortion law in 1969. The Supreme Court overturned this law in 1988. Four consecutive Roman Catholic prime ministers did nothing to re-instate the abortion law. Stephen Harper, although a social conservative, has refused to reopen the abortion debate and despite the anathemas on abortion hurled by the likes of Bishop Henry in Calgary, there is lttle effective agitation in Canada to put abortion back in the criminal code.
Abortion is not a salient issue in Canada’s general elections partly because the anti-abortion faction from the Pope down is so dogmatic. The only legislation that would satisfy the Roman Church’s strict criteria would be the recriminalization of abortion, with stiff jail sentences for all concerned. No candidate who stood on such a platform would have any chance of being elected.
A concerted push by the Catholic Church to start a movement in favour of such a radical change in the law would have exactly the opposite effect — doubly so, if bishops were seen to be pressuring Catholic MPs to toe a Catholic party line. (Sensibly few Canadian bishops try to intimidate Catholic members of Parliament on the issue of abortion)
Indeed it could be argued (as Clifford Longley writes in The Tablet) that the Church’s hard line line on abortion for the last 20 years of so, may have led to more abortions, not fewer. The argument in the public square that abortion is murder “because the Catholic Church says so”, is not going to persuade anybody. Indeed, non-Catholics cannot be bound by the teaching authority of a Church they do not belong to.
I daresay many devout people of other faiths oppose abortion. But when faced with the recent example of an 11-year old girl in England made pregnant because of an incestuous rape, most of them would say it is legitimate to choose the lesser evil. That would be my choice.
There is always some satisfaction in being smugly right. Certainly hurling around dogmatic statements that abortion is murder is much easier than constructing a credible case against abortion that might attract non-Catholic support. But there is no sign of that in Canada or anywhere else.